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NFL playoffs: What We Learned from Lions' win over Buccaneers in NFC Divisional Round

1. Jared Goff comes alive in the fourth quarter. On Sunday, Goff didn't come out on fire the way he did against the Rams, starting the game 2 of 6 passing with a third-down pass batted down and a wayward pass that should have been intercepted by the Bucs' Jamel Dean in the end zone. Goff did settle in, hitting seven straight passes at one point, but a lot of his completions were short. All the momentum favored Tampa when Rachaad White scored at the end of the third quarter, but Goff and the Lions' offense got hot to start the fourth quarter. Goff hit his first 11 passes for 131 yards and a TD in the fourth quarter, leading touchdown drives of 75 and 89 yards to give the Lions a two-score lead. When the Bucs made it a one-score game late, Goff and the Lions stayed aggressive but couldn't quite close it out, needing Derrick Barnes' interception in the final two minutes to seal it. There were also plenty of assists for Goff's effort, including the run game, some terrific play calls (check out the 29-yard throwback to Brock Wright) and some brilliant individual efforts (including Amon-Ra St. Brown's 16-yard catch on a crucial third-and-15). There was also a Lions offensive line that gutted it out despite Jonah Jackson and Frank Ragnow getting hurt, although Ragnow returned and was a big part of the win. But without Goff's fourth-quarter rally, the Lions might have been at home next week.

2. Baker Mayfield's fourth-quarter pick ends comeback season. Mayfield bet on himself this season with a one-year deal, and the bet paid off. The Bucs scratched their way into the playoffs, beat the defending NFC champs in the first round and gave the Lions everything they could handle on Sunday. Mayfield had a lot to do with that success, too. But his crushing interception with 1:35 remaining ended all hopes of the Bucs' wild season continuing. Mayfield tried to squeeze a low-percentage pass into tight end Cade Otton, but it was undercut by Barnes for a pick that ended the game. The Bucs' first possession of the game also ended in an INT, although that pass went right off Mike Evans' hands. But Mayfield rallied the Bucs time and time again, heating up in the second quarter and continuing to attack the Detroit secondary. He was sacked four times, and he arguably should have been ruled down for a fifth one the play before White's TD grab. But Mayfield was also rewarded for his toughness, bouncing off a would-be sack for an incredible 13-yard pass in stride to Otton, then hitting him for 27 more yards the next play to set up that third-quarter score. The two turnovers stung, but Mayfield's competitiveness can't be forgotten this season. NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported prior to the game that Mayfield and the Bucs are interested in a reunion, and that shouldn't change after Sunday.

3. Lions' run game slowed early, but Jahmyr Gibbs busted it open. Give a lot of credit to Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson for making adjustments to his offensive approach. The Bucs were all over the Lions' run game early, especially when David Montgomery was on the field, using a five-man front to close down every gap up front. Montgomery struggled to get anything going between the tackles, and he was guilty of a crippling chop block, wiping out a 25-yard gain on third-and-10 early in the third quarter. Goff had the Lions' longest run at halftime, at 7 yards. The game changed when the Lions got the ball consistently into Gibbs' hands, especially in the second half. He ran the ball nine times for 74 yards, ripping off a game-changing 31-yard TD early in the fourth quarter, and caught four passes for 40 more. Gibbs also had a huge blitz pickup on Bucs linebacker K.J. Britt for a big third-down conversion in the first half. Johnson married the run and pass well and was in his bag as a play-caller in the second half. He pulled a stunner when he tapped Craig Reynolds to run it in on fourth-and-goal from the Tampa Bay 1, but, hey, it worked. Montgomery even did his share with a pair of 11-yard gains in the fourth quarter to help close it out. The Lions needed every one of their playmakers to step up Sunday, and the backfield stepped up after a quiet start.

4. Bucs' defense falls apart after strong first half. NBC's Mike Tirico and Cris Collinsworth passed on a note that Todd Bowles expressed confidence in his defense's ability to stop the Lions during their production meetings leading up to the game, and for a while, it looked like Bowles was onto something. The Lions drove 75 yards for a touchdown drive and a 10-3 lead in the second quarter, but the Bucs had outplayed Detroit for most of the game through a great defensive series to start the third quarter. But after that, the Lions asserted their will offensively and the Bucs' D looked overmatched late. The loss of cornerback Jamel Dean in the second half didn't help, and the Bucs had no answer for when the Lions started picking up all of Tampa Bay's blitzes after halftime. Prior to the two-minute warning in the first half, the Bucs played a little passively, perhaps because Bowles was expecting a tight, defensive game. They punted on a fourth-and-1 (from their own 34) and attempted a field goal on fourth-and 5 that ended in a miss -- and a loud doink. The Bucs also can rue not hauling in a few passes that Goff put in harm's way, including Dean dropping a pick in the end zone early. Bowles also could have used his final timeout and forced the Lions to punt with about 30 seconds left, but he apparently felt it was moot at that point.

5. This one is for Dan Campbell. Everyone with any attachment to the Lions can -- and will -- claim some sliver of the team's dream season, advancing to the NFC Championship after Detroit opened the 2022 season with a 1-6 record. At that point, Campbell's mark as head coach was 4-19-1, and it wasn't looking great for the kneecap biters of the world. But Campbell, his staff and a terrific scouting department led by general manager Brad Holmes never blinked, sticking to the plan they set forth prior to the 2021 season. It was a brick-by-brick approach that ended with a thrilling finish last season and an unbelievable 2023 campaign -- even with some roadblocks along the way -- that's still ongoing. Campbell was mocked and ridiculed by many after his initial press conference, and then again when Detroit's doldrums continued. Campbell never blinked and has become almost the embodiment of Detroit over the past year-plus. He never veered from his gutsy approach, and it showed up several times Sunday, including on the fourth-and-goal handoff to Reynolds. Campbell has always deflected to his team for its success this season, as any good head coach would, but he deserves his flowers for a brilliant coaching job.

Next Gen stat of the game: Jahmyr Gibbs generated an 88.9% rushing success rate against the Bucs, the third-highest rate in a game by a running back since 2018 (min. nine carries). Gibbs generated +31 rushing yards over expected (his third-most in a game this season) and averaged a season-high 6.1 rush yards after contact per carry. 

NFL Research: The Lions have more playoff victories in the 2023 season (two) than they have since their last NFL Championship in 1957 (one playoff win from 1958 to 2022).

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